Any overseas ICT applications invoking WTO GATS or FTA provisions are subject to checks to verify their eligibility, which includes their seniority, employment history, and relevant work experience.

Earlier this month, Singapore's Minister of Manpower, Dr Tan See Leng, was asked by MP Leong Mun Wai about the number of foreigners who have entered Singapore through the Movement of Natural Persons provisions in FTAs and subsequently became citizens or permanent residents (PRs).

To this, Dr Tan clarified that the nation's records prior to 2014 do not distinguish between applications from overseas intra-corporate transferees (ICT) invoking provisions in the World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (WTO GATS) or other Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).

For records post-2014, any overseas ICT applications invoking WTO GATS or FTA provisions are exempted from the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) job advertising requirement (which was introduced in 2014), because it would be illogical for a company to advertise a position intended for an existing employee.

Minister Tan explained: "However, they are subject to additional checks to verify their eligibility under the WTO GATS or FTA provisions. These include their seniority, employment history, and relevant work experience. They are also subject to more conditions in their eligibility to bring in dependants, as well as apply for permanent residency or future employment in Singapore.

"Under WTO GATS and all FTAs, the government retains full rights to decide who can enter the country to live, work and become PRs or citizens."

In addition, he shared the following data points:

  • Out of the overseas ICTs who have come in via WTO GATS or FTA provisions between 2014 and 2020, on average around 30 persons a year have acquired permanent residency or citizenship.
  • Between 2014 and 2020, on average around 140 persons a year who initially came in via WTO GATS or FTA provisions subsequently obtained another work pass that was processed and approved under the prevailing criteria. This is a negligible share of the overall number of EP holders approved each year.

As for foreign professionals, Minister Tan cited the Ministerial Statements on 6 July, which already explained that the professions listed in the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) do not have any bearing on how Singapore decides on work pass applications.

He added: "Their applications have to meet our prevailing work pass criteria. Similarly, all dependants who wish to enter are also subject to the usual prevailing criteria. It is therefore meaningless to ask how many of them entered through our FTAs."

Photo / 123RF

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